Roccia dell'Orso

Palau - The legend of the Bear Rock

Established in 1994, the first in Sardinia, the Maddalena Archipelago National Park covers over 20,000 hectares of land and sea. It embraces over 60 islands, large and small, shaped by wind and currents. Now, an aura of legend surrounds the cape in front of the park. It takes its name from a spectacular natural sculpture resembling the silhouette of a bear, which seems to point to the sea with its head. This is the Bear Rock, a natural monument visited by thousands of hikers, which stands on a granite plateau over 120 metres high.

Imposing, it watches over the nearby town of Palau, a renowned tourist resort in northern Gallura. It is little more than five kilometres from the town. It can be reached via a panoramic path that starts from the Capo d'Orso fort, one of Palau's many nineteenth-century military fortifications.

This area has always been a source of ancient legends. According to Victor Berard, a writer and scholar of Homer, Capo d'Orso is the only place in the Mediterranean that can be identified with the 'land of the Lestrigons'. This is the land where Homer places the landing of Ulysses in search of food and water for his crew. And where the Greek leader himself suffered a serious defeat.

The episode is described in Book X of the Odyssey, where Ulysses disembarked to supply his three ships at a spring called 'Artacia' (i.e. 'of the Bear'). While he was drawing water, he saw a wisp of smoke rising in the distance, indicating the presence of indigenous people. As he approached the place, he met a young girl of considerable stature to whom he tried to speak to communicate. However, the girl was frightened and began to shout to get the men's attention. These men, of gigantic stature, were led by Antiphates, king of the Lestrygonians. They were a people of cannibals and feasted on the men of Ulysses whom they managed to capture. And with their great physical strength they destroyed two of the ships by throwing boulders on them. So Ulysses himself was forced to hastily retreat with the only boat he had left.

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Vieste - The legend of Pizzomunno

If you come to Vieste, you may come across an imposing limestone monolith about 25 metres high: the Pizzomunno. It's located at the beginning of the beach south of the town, known as "del Castello" (of the castle). And its imposing bulk almost seems to stand guard over Vieste. Its charm has made it the symbol of the Gargano town itself. A number of legends, often variations on one another, are linked to it.

It is said that at one time, when the town was just a village inhabited by fishermen, a tall, strong young man named Pizzomunno lived there. Also living in the same village was a young girl of rare beauty, with long hair the colour of the sun, named Cristalda. The two young people fell madly in love. Every day Pizzomunno tackled the sea in his boat and the mermaids would emerge from the waves to sing sweet songs in honour of the fisherman. The sea creatures did not just sing, but captive to Pizzomunno's gaze offered him immortality several times. If he agreed to become their king and lover.

The love that the young man lavished on Cristalda, however, made the sirens' offers vain. One of the many evenings when the two lovers went to wait for the night on the islet that stands in front of the coast, the sirens, seized by a raptus of jealousy, attacked Cristalda and dragged her into the depths of the sea. Pizzomunno ran after his beloved's voice in vain.

The following day, the fishermen found the young man, petrified with grief, on the white rock that still bears his name. It is said, however, that every hundred years the beautiful Cristalda always returns from the abyss to join her young lover and relive their ancient love for just one night.

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Milan - The legend of the bandit of Morivione

The village of Morivione is an area located in the south of Milan, at the entrance of Via dei Fontanili and Via Verro, where there is now the intersection with Via Bazzi.

The name of Morivione is due to a legend, probably true. It seems that at the time of Luchino Visconti, the area was infested with brigands, soldiers of fortune who were once part of the Company of San Giorgio, dispersed after the battle of Parabiago, at the head of which was placed Vione Squilletti. It is said that he used a deafening whistle to attack the enemy (hence Squilletti) and that he had married a certain Esmeraldina Bossi.

On the eve of the feast of St. George, the Milanese, who were tired of the actions of bandits, went to their lord asking him to free them from these scoundrels. He granted their request and the following day he gave battle to the group of thugs that besieged the place. Vione, captured, was killed on April 24, 1339. The next day the population went to the place of the battle and offered to the winners fresh milk, eggs and cream.

In the meantime, on a wall would have been painted St. George killing the dragon, with an inscription: "Here Vione died".

Another variant of the legend, less accredited, narrates that the criminal was called Alessandro Vione and that he was an ex-soldier in the service of the Sforza family, turned into a thief and here found and stabbed to death at the foot of a wisteria by the Sforza's guards. In fact in the village there is an ancient wisteria plant.

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Rocca dei meli

Rocca Meli Lupi - The legend of Donna Cenerina

The Rocca Meli Lupi is a medieval manor house rebuilt by Bonifacio and Antonio Lupi in 1385. It is a historical residence, enriched over time with countless works of art and priceless testimonies of the past, it has always remained the property of the Princes Meli Lupi who still live there.

The Rocca preserves fresco decorations and pictorial cycles by Nicola dell'Abate, Cesare Baglione, Ferdinando and Francesco Galli Bibiena. Grotesques and frescoes along sumptuous galleries and corridors of mirrors are signed by famous artists. The Throne Room and the Bridal Chamber are splendid, as well as the furnishings.

Like all self-respecting castles, Rocca Meli Lupi also boasts its own ghost, that of Cassandra Marinoni, better known as Donna Cenerina.

This woman, in 1548, married Diofebo II Meli Lupi, Marquis of Soragna, in Cassano d'Adda. During the absences of her husband, who followed Ottavio and Alessandro Farnese in many military enterprises, she administered the small feud in the Po Valley, where she welcomed her sister Lucrezia, who in 1560 had married Count Giulio Anguissola, a violent and mean man who had dissipated the family's assets and, after the separation from the woman, meditated to kill her to take possession of her inheritance.

On June 18, 1573 Anguissola appeared with a group of armed men in Cremona where Lucrezia was and, managed to enter with the deception, killed her with stab wounds hitting also Cassandra who had gone to visit her. Seriously injured, the next day the marquise was taken to Soragna where she died.

Legend has it that the ghost of Donna Cenerina still appears today in ash colored clothes. Hence the nickname of "Donna Cenerina".

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Isola dell'Asinara

Asinara Island - The ancient penal colony

The island of Asinara is an inaccessible area until a few decades ago, whose beauty still intact is the heritage of all.

16 kilometers long and with a surface of 52 square kilometers, it is part of a marine protected area that protects its natural beauty. The entire territory is in fact the Asinara National Park. The name is due to the presence on the island of unique specimens of white donkey, which has also become the symbol of the island and the park.

Asinara has had a certain historical importance. It has become a symbol of isolation because of the penal colony and the lazaret for the quarantine of tuberculosis patients that were established here in 1885. At the time the inhabitants of the area had to leave their lands and move to the northern areas of Sardinia, where they founded the village of Stintino. The Asinara prisons also played a role during the First World War when they hosted prisoners of war, especially Austro-Hungarians. While between '60 and 1997 the island remained in total isolation due to the establishment of the maximum security prison. In this prison were detained under the regime of 41bis some of the most dangerous Mafiosi.

The agricultural penal colony of Asinara had several detachments throughout the island. Each of these was headed by a branch chief, who, in turn, was answerable to the chief marshal, stationed in Cala d'Oliva. Also in Cala d'Oliva resided the director and deputy director, as well as all employed personnel, including doctors.

Asinara is now open again after 115 years of complete closure. So many decades of isolation have had a positive effect. They have preserved the natural environment of the island, saving it from any cement works. And above all allowing the birth of the National Park of Asinara.

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Museo Stibbert

Stibbert Museum - The Japanese Armory

The Stibbert Museum in Florence was born from the collections of Frederick Stibbert. This Englishman, whose mother was Tuscan, restored and enlarged the small Villa Montughi here at the end of the 19th century, creating the sumptuous family villa. Having enriched himself with the railway business in his English motherland, Stibbert then settled in Florence. Upon his death, he donated the villa, the park connected to it and the collections kept there to the city, thus creating an important foundation that opened the house to the public.

Currently the entire collection consists of over 36,000 inventory numbers (for about fifty thousand objects). For the most part they are all exhibits, the result of the original nucleus left by Stibbert at his death but increased by various gifts and later purchases. In the museum are exposed ancient weapons, along with art objects. The most impressive section, however, is certainly that of armor. Absolutely unique for wealth, internationality and scenograficità of the exposure. It boasts almost 16,000 pieces from various eras, mostly from central Europe.

Among the various museum collections there is also the Japanese one, the largest in the world outside Japan.

The three rooms that house the Japanese Armory were originally designed to house medieval European materials. But already around 1880 Stibbert began to take an interest in Far Eastern armaments, coinciding with Japan's reopening to external markets after 1868. The collection has about 95 complete suits of armor, 200 helmets, 285 short and long swords and weapons in auction, 880 tsuba (the guards of the sabers) as well as accessories all of great quality and workmanship.

The objects are located almost all between the Momoyama period and the Edo period (from 1568 to 1868). Some, however, are earlier, to be placed in the second half of the fourteenth century.

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Bronzi di Riace

National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria - Among the Riace Bronzes

In the aftermath of the 1908 earthquake, the idea of creating a large museum in Reggio Calabria was born. A museum entirely dedicated to Magna Graecia. Thus was born the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.

The new permanent exhibition now has 220 display cases and is spread over four levels. These tell the story of human settlement in Calabria from prehistory to Romanization. All according to a chronological and thematic criterion.

The visit begins on the second floor, from prehistory and protohistory. It continues on the second floor among the cities and sanctuaries of Magna Grecia. Follow the mezzanine with its Necropolis, and finally the ground floor. The basement is reserved for temporary exhibitions. There is also the lapidary and a small archaeological area related to a strip of the necropolis found in 1932.

On the ground floor, since 1981, there is a special section. It houses the famous Bronzes. They are kept together with the so-called Head of the Philosopher and the Head of Basel.

The Riace Bronzes are considered among the most significant examples of classical Greek art. These are two bronze statues depicting two naked men. Originally armed with shield and spear, they are the symbol of the city of Reggio Calabria. Found in 1972, near Riace Marina, they were discovered during a dive. The hypotheses on the origin, the dating and the authors of the statues are different. They probably date back to the middle of the fifth century BC and it is assumed that they were thrown into the sea during a storm to lighten the ship that carried them. Or, that simply the boat sank.

These are the most famous finds in the world, but they are not the only precious examples of Calabrian history. At the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria, in fact, there are exhibits related to a wide chronological span. Some of them are unique for their beauty, majesty or state of preservation.

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Palazzo Te

Palazzo Te - The cave of the Secret Garden

Palazzo Te is one of Mantua's most famous buildings and appreciated by tourists. Surrounded by the trees of the gardens, it appears almost as if by magic as it must have been for those who approached it in the past, leaving the walls of Mantua and crossing the bridge that connected the Te island to the city. The building is a villa dedicated to Federico II Gonzaga, built in just 10 years by Giulio Romano and his workshop and still splendidly preserved. With a cycle of frescoes unique in the world.

But why is it called that?

The origin of the name is clearly not derived in any way from the English national drink. But then where does this appellation come from? There are only a few hypotheses in this regard. One of the most accredited hypothesis dates back the name to the T formed by two roads that crossed in the center of the island where the Palace was built. The other hypotheses make reference to the fact that Te is a contraction of "Tejetum", a term used in the past for this location. In the meantime the name continues to grant the palace an aura of mystery.

Among the most characteristic corners of this place there is undoubtedly the cave of the Secret Garden. This is one of the details that most attract visitors who come to the garden, on the left side of the exedra.

The cave dates back to a period after the construction of Palazzo Te. Proof of this is the fact that the first mention of it is found in a document dated 1595. This strange environment is to be attributed to the will and imagination of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga, whose enterprises can be seen inside the niches. The environment has suffered heavy damage with the removal of the shells that adorned the walls, along with rock concretions and mosaics, and with the disappearance of water games that surprised visitors.

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Castello di Gropparello

Castle of Gropparello - The spectrum of Rosania Fulgosio

Today we take you to Piacenza, to discover one of the most famous haunted castles in Italy: the Gropparello Castle. It is a sumptuous complex of medieval origin that stands on a rocky spur overlooking the Vezzeno river.

Built in the Middle Ages in an elevated and protected position, like many other castles, it boasts a fascinating history linked to its many owners.

It was wanted by Charlemagne in 808, who saw in that point a strategic position of defense thanks to the stream.

Then, like many other castles in the area, it was the scene of clashes between Guelphs and Ghibellines. After having passed from hand to hand and having escaped numerous sieges, it passed to the Farnese family and, in 1869, to Count Ludovico Marazzani-Visconti. The count ordered some renovations and the current appearance of the building is due to the work of the architect Guidotti.

Legend has it that the castle is haunted by ghosts: the restless souls of the many soldiers who fell in the battles in defense of the castle. But not all of them are soldiers. A ghost seems to be that of Rosania Fulgosio, young wife of Pietrone da Calcagno, lord of the castle who left her alone when he left for the war. Left alone, Rosania found an old love. But unfortunately her husband returned, discovered the lovers and punished his wife in a cruel way: he built a little room without doors or windows, where he locked Rosania up until the end of her days. It is said that the poor unhappy bride can still be heard moaning and crying in the night, in search of the much desired peace and lost love.

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Parco archeologico del Colosseo

Colosseum Archaeological Park - The 5 stages not to be missed

The Archaeological Park of the Colosseum is a vast area that includes the Flavian Amphitheater, the area of the Roman Forum and the Palatine, the Domus Aurea on the Oppio Hill, the Arch of Constantine and the Meta Sudans. With tens of millions of visitors, the site is among the most visited in the world and the first in Italy. The park preserves and enhances some of the most important archaeological evidence of the history of Western civilization, from the end of the Bronze Age to the contemporary age.

The first? Without a doubt the Colosseum. What is always the most visited monument in Italy has become an icon. The reasons? For its exceptional architecture, for the fame of the gladiators and the games, for its fortune over the centuries, from medieval and Christian reuse to the ideological one that have made it the symbol of an empire and today that of the city of Rome and the world.

Then there is the Roman Forum: the political and civil heart of ancient Rome. This beats under a complex stratification of streets, squares and buildings of which history, excavations and restorations have repeatedly changed the face. An archaeological panorama unique in the world that also includes masterpieces of medieval art.

Another important treasure is the Palatine. On the Palatine are preserved the remains of Iron Age settlements related to the oldest core of the city of Rome. Seat of important city cults, including that of Magna Mater (Cybele), between the second and first centuries BC, the hill became the residential district of the Roman aristocracy. Here they created refined residences characterized by exceptional pictorial and floor decorations, such as those preserved in the House of the Griffins.

Another fundamental stop of the Archaeological Park is the Arch of Constantine. This monument, located in Piazza del Colosseo, next to the remains of the famous fountain, is an imposing triumphal arch. It manifests Constantine's desire to make it a florilegium of Roman political sculpture.

Last, but not least, there is the Domus Area: what remains of Nero's palace houses in magnificent architecture the secret wonders of Roman painting, rediscovered in the Renaissance and destined to fascinate the visitor today, thanks to the virtual reconstructions of the rooms.

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